Iolanthe at Chichester Festival Theatre

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IT WAS enough to make a mere Portmuthian feel even more humble than usual on an excursion to Chichester.

But even that city’s smart set might feel inadequate as a grand chorus of peers booms ‘Bow, bow, you lower middle classes’ - some of them sneering, some curling lips, all pointing in fiendish ridicule.

And the point is key to the success of Carl Rosa Opera’s production of the satirical fantasy by Gilbert and Sullivan: the ensembles of fairies as well as peers are made up of individual characters, giving life and colour to the whole show.

Most notable among the peers are Barry Clark as Tolloller and particularly Bruce Graham as Mountararat, with facial acting to match their vocal skills. Richard Suart (Lord Chancellor) patters as potently as ever and Daniel Hoadley gives the young hero an ardent tenor.

Indeed the only serious disappointment is Victoria Joyce, who is much too heavy on the vibrato as Phyllis.

A reduced orchestration is played in lively style under Martin Handley but it is Peter Mulloy’s work as director/designer that lifts the production out of the ordinary.

MIKE ALLEN